which know are you?

Let’s say I was to pick up a book on microbiology. I know nothing about microbiology. I am the furthest thing from a science aficionado.  I could, however, read the book. I would be able to figure out the words and, maybe, understand a simple concept or two. I would walk away from that book knowing what mircobiology was and understanding it a little better. But I wouldn’t know microbiology. I wouldn’t have a passion for it, a desire to study more, a working and functional understanding. My brain just doesn’t work that way. There is a difference between knowing and knowing.

I grew up, as I have said before, in a church family. We were involved. My parents set a great example of service in the church. We were there. I memorised books of the bible in sequential order, I mastered sword drills, memorised verses, learned all the key stories. I could debate the merits of Christianity adeptly with the knowledge I had gained. I knew things. I could read my bible and understand the language and the cadence. I could read and know what the words meant and where the story was leading. I knew things. I had knowledge. But I didn’t really know.

I feel like this might be starting to sound a little strange. So let me elaborate a little. Samuel was a boy who was dedicated to God and service in the temple from a young age. I’m talking just-weaned young. As soon as he could eat without his mom, he was brought to the temple. His mother was in a difficult situation as a co-wife who had no children and was mocked for her barrenness by her fellow wife. Her husband loved her dearly and tried to fill that void, but she wanted a child to shut this other lady up. I am pretty sure that any of us in the same situation would probably feel the same way. So she prayed and said that if God would give her a son, just one child, she would dedicate that child to Him. So Samuel, from his earliest memory, knew only temple life. He lived there, worked there, learned there, ate there. He saw his family once a year. His whole life was lived for God’s service. He had knowledge. There is no way he could have grown up in that environment and not learned things about God. He would have witnessed the sacrifices, the offerings, the reading of the Law. He would have witnessed people with disease and illnesses, people trying to atone, people being moved out of town for uncleanness. He knew. He would have heard words from scripture repeated over and over. He probably had a lot of them memorised. He knew things. Any child who grows up with parents of conviction knows things. It’s a good thing.

When was the last time you read the story of God calling Samuel? I was reading it today. It is one I have known since childhood. I could have told you the plot with ease. But the older I get and the more I read, the more I realise I have so much to learn, especially the parts I think I already know. There is a small verse in this accounting that I have probably passed over more than once.

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.(3:7)

It is easy to pass over, it just seems like one of those statements that elaborate on the story, but don’t really provide a whole lot of meaningful detail. Except, here, it does mean something. Because the word we know as ‘know’ is very different than the word the Hebrews used for ‘know.’ Their word was more than just knowledge, their word was full of intimate detail, of soul deep connection, of living understanding. It is the same word used about Adam knowing Eve. This is the word that is used any time a husband knew his wife. It suggests a connection. Differentiating between our understanding, which is basic and bland (like vanilla ice cream), and the Hebrew word (ice cream cake) is really important to understanding what this verse is trying to say.

Samuel was aware of the scriptures. He was aware of the customs, the sacrifices, the requirements of the Law. But he didn’t intimately and deeply and soulfully know. God had not revealed that to him. It is no different from me, growing up knowing a whole lot without actually knowing. And this is the struggle of parenting. I know. And I want my girls to know. But that is not something I can do. I can teach and train. I can talk with them when I wake and when I lie down and when I walk by the way. But I cannot make their hearts know. That is up to God and God alone.

Here is where I take heart. Samuel heard a voice. And he thought it was his “father” Eli. He went to this trusted source three times. The third time, his trusted source realised that it was God calling. And he instructed Samuel as to the proper response. That instruction, coming from a trusted source, directed Samuel when God called for the fourth time.

I am my children’s trusted source. I cannot reveal God to them. I can teach them about God, I can teach them scripture and stories. I can teach them. But only God reveals. God has given me the responsibility to be that trusted source. To grow and build a relationship with my girls so that they can come to me. So that I am the first person they come to. So that I can tell them when God is calling. When God is trying to get their attention. I cannot reveal God, but I can direct their steps. I might not get it right the first, or second, or third time. But eventually I will. Because that is how good my God is. Eli might be but a footnote in the story of Samuel, but he had cultivated a relationship that enabled Samuel to come to him. He grew a connection that caused Samuel to respect him. He was able to recognise what Samuel was not yet able to, and to tell Samuel, and to lead Samuel in the proper response. Is there a greater gift I can give my children? No. There isn’t. The greatest gift may come from God, but my relationship can help them see that gift when God calls them to it.

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an act of God.

“People who live apart from God do not know how desperate their situation is, not until something happens to reveal their unavoidable helplessness.” The bible is proof of this statement. The stories that unfold in it’s pages are a testimony to the fact that humanity is perfectly comfortable living in the death of sin. Sin, since the fall, is our default setting, our perpetual state of being, outside of Christ. It is the thing we fight against, give in to, notice in others. It is a tangible part of who we are. It invades our thoughts, directs our actions, controls our speech. And, outside of the work of the Holy Spirit, we don’t even realise we are living this way. We are comfortable to sin as long as we can call it anything other than sin. We are blind to how desperately we need help, until help is the only thing we can call out for.

Large forest fires, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes. These have all, at one time or another, been cast as “acts of God.” And that is an appropriate label. They are destructive events that cannot help but highlight our inability to save ourselves and our possessions from forces of nature. They cripple towns, destroy homes, and take lives. The repercussions of such events are felt, by those living in the area, for months and years to come. And have you ever noticed how these types of events cause people to call on and use God’s name with increased frequency? The reason we call such cataclysmic events “acts of God” is because they inevitably bring us closer to Him. And that is the point. We have the whole history of the bible as proof. The flood, the plagues of Egypt, the snakes in the desert, the earth opening up and swallowing people whole, the fire from heaven, the whale/fish swallowing a man, and on and on. God has always used his creation to get the attention of his crowning creation. And not just creation. God used other nations, other political powers, to capture the attention of his people. They were invaded and taken captive more than once. They were brought to their knees in slavery. Acts of God are not just natural phenomenon. Weren’t churches flooded with new attendees after 9-11? People respond to God in desperation. In times of fear and hopelessness and helplessness. It is the one thing most likely to get our attention. But it isn’t the only way God gets our attention. And, many times, we brush off the subtle attempts, the warnings.

If the bible teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that we are inherently incapable of saving ourselves. Not only can we not save ourselves, we try to ignore the fact that we need saving. If we can’t ignore that, humans look for the way to salvation that somehow includes their effort. We all want to be able to say that we earned our salvation. That we were good enough: even better, that we were more good than the person standing beside us. We want measures and tallies. We want a winning score. However, we are incapable of a winning score. We are on the losing team from birth. Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us about the losing team, Romans 1:21-32, 1 Corinthians expounds on the traits of the losing team. And all our lives, God is laying before us glimpses of his greatness and love and mercy. Trying to get our attention. Until, at the right time, the exact right moment, He acts in a way that is unavoidable. A way that we cannot help but notice. An act of God. It is easy when it’s big. It makes a good story when its something cataclysmic. But a good story isn’t the point. The point is that, for the first time, we choose to surrender.

It is these acts of God that I want to talk about for a minute. Because I think we all want one, a big one. We all want something that we can tell people “I was there! I saw THAT!” But that isn’t always God’s way. For some people it happens young and the only memory we have is a quite, peaceful feeling with soft images of kneeling at a bedside with parents. Some of us remember a moment when we heard a phrase or read a sentence that just arrested our hearts and changed the course of our lives. And some of us were struck down by circumstances of pain, something that was huge to us and relatively unknown to the world at large. But each of these is an act of God. And they won’t stop at conversion. They continue for the duration of our sojourn here. They root us deeper and stretch us further and grow us higher and make us more fruitful. The more we notice, the more we seek them out. Acts of God are not just for conversion, they are for out growth and edification. They are shimmering pieces of God’s glory revealed to us. They are the whispers that we are not alone or forgotten. And we are the richer for seeking them out. Do you still see them? Do you still notice? Are you looking for God in your days? In you joys? In you pains? In the monotony? God stretches far beyond the moment we accept his draft to the winning team. He stretches into eternity. He is constantly trying to adjust our focus, to turn our attention, to enthrall us. But it only really works if we are looking for, waiting for, holding on to those acts of God. It is an act of God that brings us to our knees, an act of God that opens heaven to us, and a continuing string of acts of God that keep our focus.

at a crossroads, pick your test.

I grew up with sisters. Just sisters. And they are great and I love them, but there is something about a house with that much estrogen. I know, because I am raising all girls. It’s not an anomaly. Girls like to push limits in relational ways. I really struggle with self control in the face of the numerous attempts at manipulation. I know they have gotten the best of me, and they know it, too. It probably happens more than I care to admit. The one thing about all this subtle and glaring manipulation that is helpful is that it allows me to have a better understanding of how God must feel. “God, I will read my bible every day if only you…” “I will go to church and serve in all the ministries if you just save…” ” I will do everything you ask if you could only…” And this is by no means a new idea. The desert wandering alone is full of times the people tried to manipulate or test God. They promised everything when they really needed Him and fell by the wayside just as easily when things were going well. My girls are little mirrors of this sin. As I have been.  So what are we to do about the verses about testing God?

I have been puzzling a bit over the story of Gideon. I mean, I understand the story, but God answered Gideon’s tests without anger or disapproval. He provided the signs and they both moved on from there. What I noted is that, once God provided definitive proof, Gideon followed direction without further questioning. He got what he needed to be sure of his direction and he journeyed forth in faith and confidence. He was by no means the greatest or wisest of men, but he was steadfast. He was just a man, called by God. The question I kept asking myself was this: if God asked something great of me, and I asked him to prove himself by a sign, would I be ready and willing and steadfast in following his direction without further hesitation? This is, I think, the root of the question about testing God, at least in this context. If God is asking me to follow, to go, and I test him, than I better be good and ready to follow whatever the hurdles or difficulties or costs. Who am I to question God further when He has already provided conclusive proof? If I am unsure of which fork in the road to take and I ask God for a specific sign, I better have my shoes tied tight and my pack strapped firmly to my back, no looking back or from side to side, the glimpses of God’s glory before me as I take unwavering steps. The serious problem is that I am a little bit afraid of this idea. I don’t know how far I will have to journey, what enemies I will have to fight, what battles I will encounter. I don’t know all that may be lost to me when once I begin such a journey. There could be manifold discomforts. And yes, there will be blessings because God is God. But, facing the unknown, it is hard to take those steps without more information. Gideon didn’t know, when he took those first steps after testing God, how far and through how much fighting he would have to journey. Yet he went anyway, full of faith in God and borrowed courage, sure of God’s unending goodness and steadfastness in His promises. This is not a test of God’s character, but his leading. And this kind of test answered means that we better buck up and get on with it. He deserves nothing less.

There is the problem of the other kind of testing. The Deuteronomy 6 kind. The kind that God instructs Israel not to do. He refers to Massah, the water from the rock situation. It was a manipulative type of testing. A “if you are really with us than give us…” The kind my kids try to pull. And I can say that I really understand why God puts a serious hand in the face with this one. The I AM is not a genie or a fairy godfather. He is not a granter of all our material desires. This whole story, the whining and complaining and arm twisting attitude, makes my lip curl. Let me get one thing clear, God did not give them what they were asking for because he fell prey to their pettiness. He acted out of love. He was saving Moses from the people. He was leading a wayward and sinful people through a desert, and they weren’t especially grateful that he had saved them from slavery when they were faced with the desert. They asked for help, He granted it, and they huffed when that help didn’t look the way they wanted it to. He proved himself over and over, and they kept turning away and asking for more proof of his love. Is it any wonder He tired of their antics and handed them over to their enemies to refine and discipline them? This is the kind of testing we are warned away from. The selfish, grasping, ego-feeding kind. The kind that makes us think we have one up on God. Because that way leads to seriously hot refining. I was so tempted, when things were bad with Aleeda, to go to this place. I wanted God to prove he was with me by giving me a miracle. Water from a rock. It is harder to believe God is really there in the howling winds and scraping sand of the desert. But if I am still enough, silent enough, and quiet my heart enough, I will hear the sustaining whispers. Israel wasn’t interested in whispers. They wanted God to be the wind. Clearing a path and making it all easy. That is not the life to aim for in following His plan.

Do you see the difference? One is proof for His purpose and the other is an attempt to prove our power. Our faithful God is faithful in the first, and a loving Father who disciplines in the second. So I will be careful of my motives and understanding before testing the I AM. Will you?

serve, twelve times, serve.

Raising children is essentially bringing them to a point where they have to live the answer to the question “what do you choose for yourself now?” And then hope that they have listened and learned from everything that has been poured into them, and make a wise choice. Is there anything harder? Would it be harder to present them with that question and know that they were going to make a massive mess that would lead to serious trouble? At the end of Joshua, God knows that his people are going to seriously fail. Joshua knows it, too. And, yet, the end of Joshua’s story is Israel choosing and vowing to follow and serve God. This promise, this vow, was not altogether untrue. It lasted as long as the people who had experienced the work of God after the time of wandering in the desert were lived. Then they died. At which point it started to fray. And once it frayed, it was impossible for the people to reassemble that faithfulness. This is such an accurate representation of repetitive destruction. The farther removed we are from a trial or difficult situation, the more likely we are to relapse into self-sufficiency. Proximity matters.

The thing I find interesting about the Old Testament is the repetition of the phrase “serve the Lord.” It seems fairly innocuous. The words end up feeling more like a filler than a meaning. But after my study of the Law books, serving the Lord takes on a different meaning. The whole Law is written not just as a way to show the people their sinfulness, but also to align their actions with their hearts. The sacrifices and the offerings and the grain offerings, the feasts and periods of rest, the Sabbath. It wasn’t just about following rules, it was all about God. About His love and goodness that allowed this sinful people to live when everyone around them was condemned. It was a stream of service, constant acts to remind a people that they owed all to God and should use their lives to serve him for their good. In Joshua 24: 14-24, the word serve appears, in various forms, twelve times. That kind of repetition cannot be ignored. Service means something.

My life now is about service. I’m a mom, it comes with the territory. But it isn’t the same kind of service. This is more rote. That was more about the heart and soul bending in reverence to the great I AM. I am beginning to wonder if that kind of service is failing to touch my life. It is easy to be comfortable in  the system I have now; the Sunday attendance, the helping with ministry, the bible study. But there are still great swaths of my days, of my life, when I am merely existing. Yes, the salvation I have now is greater, my foundation sure. But there is danger of my surety breeding laziness. Even more so now, when so many church attendees are seeking to be served. There are so many flashy options, events and music meant to draw people in. But those kinds of things, like my daily failures, are all flash and little substance. God is not in the business of making us feel awesome. God is in the business of refining and growing. Church, while a community of love and support, is meant to be an avenue of service and challenge. The problem that Israel faced after the death of the generation who witnessed God conquering on their behalf was stagnation. And then regression. I see the most growth in myself when I am challenged, when I am tested, when I am encouraged to burrow my roots deeper. And that is what a good church does. Is this not how I, in these years between resurrection and return, am to be serving? Christ came as the final sacrifice, but that does not absolve us from serving with our whole beings. I don’t mean giving up everything to spend all our time at church, up to our necks in every ministry, but having a heart that is bent to God. Not looking for ways that God can serve me, but for ways I can honour him with my choices. Serving Him by being in his word, learning and growing. Serving God by working to maintain proximity, to spurn the fraying. Serving by preparing myself for whatever opportunities He will place in my life. Serving by refusing to surrender to the pressures around me. Serving by holding myself to His standard, not my own. It is daily choices in my actions and speech and thought and time that will help me maintain a heart of serviceful worship.

Joshua knew that the promises of the people were in vain. He was present with Moses when God told him that they would all fail. He knew what the outcome would be. But he still entreated them to serve. He gave them warning. Serve, twelve times, serve. The challenge now, in these feel good times, is finding a church that grows us in service, not one that serves our desires for a good time to the hindrance of our growth.

sin is sin is sin

Our oldest two started school last month. Homeschooling just wasn’t working for us, and so we found another option! They love it. It’s a small school and they get lots of one on one time. And they look so cute in their uniforms.

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All this to say that I have been busier than I expected. Which is really no excuse to slip on my time in the Word, but that is exactly what happened. I know that I have had time, despite my excuses, because I have found myself in the kitchen, more than once, kind of aimlessly hovering. My mind knew there was something to do, but I couldn’t seem to pin myself down. I ended up filling my time with YouTube and other such pointlessness. And even sermon videos just weren’t cutting it. There really isn’t anything like spending time learning from and seeking out and speaking to God. So today, finally, I dove back in.

After my extended journey through Deuteronomy, I am in Joshua. I feel like this is a book for men. Its got all the battles that any guy could ask for. Even more impressive is that the leader in all this was an 80 year old man! But for all the adventure and excitement of all the war, this is a story line that can sometimes feel uncomfortable. There is an awful lot of bloodshed, a lot of cities eliminated, populations wiped out. It is hard to be ok with all the bloodshed of what we would call “innocent people.” And I am sure we have all heard unbelieving friends/colleagues/strangers say “how could a loving God condone all that violence and murder?” While the answer seems fairly simple (ie sin is sin), the bigger problem is so many people seem to be uncomfortable with the reality that God is not solely “love.” To really understand the stories of the Old Testament eradication of entire cities, we have to really understand who God is.

The bible does tell us that God is love, but it goes beyond this to provide us with additional aspects of his character. God is vengeful, jealous, righteous, holy, perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. He is full of mysteries that are not comprehensible here on earth. He is immense. And we are not. Nowhere are these differences more evident than in the Old Testament accounts. God is infinitely patient with Israel. He forgives and loves them over and over. This does not exclude them from punishment, but as his chosen people, they are protected by His will. Likewise, the people who He has not chosen are also punished for their sin. Punished in the way that all humanity should be, were it not for the grace afforded us at the cross. The only reason anyone was saved was because of God’s love. The only reason the Israelites escaped the same fate was because of God’s love. It puts things into a different perspective.

In Noah’s time, God sent a flood and wiped out everyone, all the people who were not faithful. And He shortened the length of their lives. God punished sin in a massive way then, but somehow I guess drowning doesn’t seem as violent as the slaughter of towns. The reason for both types of punishment is the same. God cannot abide sin. Sin cannot go unpunished. Even in Israel, sin did not go unpunished. It is impossible for God to allow sin to continue unabated. This is something that needs to be grasped before it is possible to grasp the necessity for the warring in Joshua. We have to concede and embrace that God is more than love. It is this understanding that brings us to an acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus is the only reason that we have the forgiveness the Israelites did not. The only reason. And getting our heads around that reality leads us to a better understanding of a God who would require sin to be removed from the land that He and his people were to inhabit. God cannot be present with sin. There needs to be a separation. This is why Israel failed. They failed to eliminate all the people they were supposed to and this was a foothold for Satan to usher in sin on a larger scale. I know and you know and God knows that the Israelites would have failed on their own eventually anyway, but the failure to obey God lead them down that path at greater speed.

Hasty devolution or not, the truest part of all of this is that we are just as much sinners as the people who lived in the land God promised his people would inherit. We are just as bad. Sin is sin. There is no salvation for good people or nice people, there is sin even in them. The violence with which God eliminated sinful cities is the same violence we deserve. Have you ever read these accounts and thought that? How you and I deserve the same fate as the people God told Moses and Joshua to remove? It is a sobering thought. It is why we need to revere and respect and fear God. It is why we need to remember just what His holiness really means in light of our lowly situation. It is why we need to understand the weight of punishment Christ endured to ensure our salvation.

There isn’t anything like spending time with God. He is the source of all goodness, wisdom, love, light. He is it. And the more we are communing with Him, the more we understand his nature and our gifted position. Israel didn’t value or understand this in the way they should have. And, if we are honest, we probably do a worse job than they did. We just have a better salvation. That is all. We have Christ. So next time you pick up your bible to read a book like Joshua, or next time someone questions you on the violence, it might be best to remember and put voice to the sin that God abhors. Because in His eyes, there is no differentiate, sin is just sin.

Fear first.

Like releasing a long held breath. I have finished Deuteronomy. And after all the build up and drama, the recounting of miracles and the work of God’s hand, the ending is more than a little depressing.

My recap, for those of you who have yet to venture all the way through this particular account:

Moses begins with a bit of an overlap, recounting the arrival at the edge of the Promised Land. The sending out of spies, the fear of the people, the anger of God and the punishment of wandering until an entire generation passed away. He touches on the wandering period, the blessings and directions of God. He relates the more recent history, the defeat of kings on the edge of the Jordan and the preparations to cross. But he is not allowed to go. He will be gathered to God before that happens. Then comes the retelling of the laws. It starts with a command from Moses to obey, to not add to or subtract from the law that God has given them. Interspersed in the recounting of the Law are stories from the time of wandering, the gifting of the tablets, the rebellion of the people. It is laid out and worded in a way to humble the people, to make them aware of their insignificance. In chapter 10, after a recounting of the carving out of the second set of tablets, comes some direction. And I think it is laid out in a specific way on purpose. Israel is first extolled to fear the Lord. Then they are charged to love and obey God. From there to chapter 26, the law is recounted in detail. What follows are curses and blessings for Israel and the people they are to vanquish. Moses follows this with an urgent and serious plea for the people to listen and to do as they have been commanded, to turn to God so that they may live and prosper and be blessed. He even says “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach…the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (30:11,14). Next, God has Moses set Joshua apart, presenting him to the people as their next leader. Then, this man who has journeyed with these people for 40 years sits down and writes the law out.

Now, this is where things get interesting. At least I think so. I have to wonder if, as he was writing out the law to these “stiff-necked people,” Moses thought that maybe they had learned their lesson. They were on the tail end of 40 years of desert life, eating only manna day after day (which was, by all accounts, perfectly nutritious and delicious), having survived snakes and rebellion that ended with the earth opening and swallowing a group of men. So many displays of God’s might and power. And after recounting the blessings that were promised if they obeyed, I can’t help but think that Moses was hopeful that this people would finally see the light! Which is why the next part of the story feel so shocking and blunt. God calls Moses and Joshua to himself and basically says “Sorry, boys, but they are going to fall away and be terrible and lose it all.” I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad for Moses. He had spent his life leading these people and pleading for them and doing his best to get through their thick skulls. And now, after 40 years of the drama, he was told by God that this lousy group of people was going to go the way of their sin. All this basically right before he dies. What an ending. Without the promise of heaven, all that would be pretty depressing. This is the point at which Moses writes his song. And you should read it, if you have time. It’s most of chapter 32. It is a long message to Israel. And it is in this song that I found something both familiar and foreign.

In verse 35, the oft quoted passage “it is mine to avenge; I will repay” is originally found. That is the familiar part. The unfamiliar, at least to me, was that this was not spoken to Israel about their enemies or people who would wrong them, it was spoken TO them. It was directed at Israel by God. It is the end of a lengthy diatribe against the nation. It is a judgement on a people who know God and yet still choose to forsake His love for the folly of sin and idolatry. This passage is repeated twice in the New Testament: by Paul in Romans, and in Hebrews. In Romans it is used the way I have always heard it, as a warning against revenge. But Hebrews is a little closer to the original, probably given the audience would have had an understanding and knowledge of Moses’ account. And I think it is a stark warning to us, especially considering we have the whole of the Bible to read and learn. What good is the Old Testament history if we cannot see the mistakes of Israel and try to avoid them?

Hebrews is one of my favourite letters. And chapter 10 has some pretty fierce and awesome imagery. “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said ‘it is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”(29-31) After reading Deuteronomy, this is a little more terrifying. And that isn’t a bad thing. It is so easy to see God as loving and caring and gracious, because he is. But it is also important to remember that He is vengeful.

I want my children to have a healthy fear of me so that they take what I say seriously. They need to know what punishment and consequences are so they know that I am not to be crossed. It is how I teach my kids respect for and obedience to authority. There are rules in the world that must be followed and they won’t learn that unless I teach them. It is the same with God. I need to remember to have a healthy fear of the might of God. I need that in order to take all he says seriously and with the utmost respect. My relationship with Him needs some healthy fear so that my trust and intimacy increases. My children come to me and trust me because I have set clear boundaries and consequences if those boundaries are crossed. They trust me to interpret the world for them because they do not have enough knowledge and understanding to do that for themselves. I, in turn, have the same trust and expectation of God. And I am growing in the understanding that what He reveals is done in his time and for his purposes and for my good. Just like my children. Without a fear of the Lord we can have no understanding of what he has revealed of himself. Fear is an understanding of God’s immeasurable power. And a recognition that He will exercise that power in the same loving way I do with my children. It is motivation to obey. And I need to cling to that fear, because the second I let go of it I am in grave danger of repeating the pattern of Israel. And for that, the punishment is greater for the knowledge I have received. This is why Israel is called first to fear God. This is why we are called to fear God. Not to strong arm us into obedience, but to reconcile our hearts to the realities that walk hand in hand with disobedience.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29)

bit by bit.

Today is an anniversary in our house. It is five years since we got the call that they had a new heart for Aleeda. I know other families who mark such occasions with parties and balloons. It is interesting to see the ways in which so many families build traditions on days like this. I don’t do that here. I have never been able to find a way to mark the day that fits with my feelings. I don’t feel like partying. I don’t want my child to grow up thinking of this as a day about her. There are so many opinions on this topic, and I am really not going to weigh in on that. This is just how I feel. I cannot bring myself to throw a party, no matter how well meaning or how much I try to honour the sacrifice that made it possible for me to have my daughter. It just doesn’t work for me. All I can think, no matter how happy I am to have my family, is that there is a family who will forever mark this day as one of the worst of their lives. So we keep today as a normal day. And talk to our daughter always about the reality of what it took for us to bring her home.

I am reading through Deuteronomy. Like many things in life, it is challenging. The beginning isn’t so bad, but it gets a little drier the further into the book I go. I like it because it is the desert account from Moses’ perspective. In his final days, he takes the time to create this version of events. It is a marking of events. As this people stand at the edge of the Promised Land, they are faced with a history of their wandering, their faithlessness. This new generation is tasked with living in a way that better and more fully honours God. This storytelling does not gloss over the grungy bits. It is an airing of all the dirty laundry. A call to be better. One of my favourite parts of this accounting is the story of the second set of tablets. The first set, that Moses smashed in anger, was given to him by God. But the second set, after Moses pleaded with God to save his people, was carved by Moses himself. It is such a small part of the story. Such a seemingly insignificant couple of sentences. But it made me think about the work that went into that couple of tablets. I have never done it, but I imagine carving out stone and making it the right shape and smoothness cannot be easy. It requires skill and patience. And time. I imagine it is a “bit by bit” type of work. Watching something form one little chip after the other. Something that God could have easily whisper-breathed into existence. But He required Moses to work with his hands. And then He sent Moses to lead his people. The people wandered and traveled and overtook the land. But they fell away again. The importance of the wandering account faded, and the further they got from that time, the less they seemed to care. Until it was all stripped away and they were laid bare before God, to learn the kind of faith He always wanted, while they toiled in captivity.

The more time that passes since the time we spent in hospital, the easier it is to forget. To forget the feelings, the endless waiting, the worry, the heartache, the hand of God. It is easy to get wrapped up in the life I have now, the everyday. I lose sight of the importance of parenting God’s way, because the children I am raising are His. I lose sight of the things I learned. I lose sight of the goals I had. I get lost. I spend too much time aimlessly looking at the scenery, and forget the journey I am on. I am like Moses’ charges; willfully ignoring the work that was required to bring me to this point. And the more time that passes, the more in danger I am of losing the most important thing I gained: a deep and true and real faith in, and love for, the Father. I don’t want to be a surface worshiper, I want the soul-deep earthquakes of real and lasting and abiding and trusting and whole faith. I want the hard lessons I learned to spill into the lives of my children. I want to lead them to understand the reasons I follow the I AM. I want them to know. I want to be the mother who shares with them in the waking hours; in the walking and sitting, in the lying down and getting up. I want that. But to have that, I need to be more involved in my faith than the nation of Israel was. I need to be seeking God, following Him, listening and living and communicating. I need to take this story, the heart the Moses displayed here for God and his people, and make that my heart for God and my little people. The place it starts is with me. I need to chip and work, bit by bit.  I need to create a surface that God can write his story on. I need my heart and life to be the tablets of stone that will carry the message of the Saviour, Father, and Spirit. Because I am sharing this tablet with the people I love most. And there is nothing that will benefit them more.

I am so grateful that we have Aleeda. I am so grateful that we got to bring her home. I am so blessed with all the children I have. In all their messes and strong personalities and stubbornness. I know I am blessed. I now want to make sure that I do not lose sight of what I have gained. I want to bless my children with the lessons I have learned. I want God to use me in their lives. And He has provided such a opportunity for me to witness to my children. What better example is there of His sacrifice than the one that was made so that Aleeda could live. I am praying, especially today, that God will continue to grow me and shape me and write on my heart. That I would not lose sight of the importance of my exodus from sin, no matter how much time passes. That I would see the blessings that came in my wandering. That I would, like Moses, with impassioned pleas, share my heart with the ones I love most. Bit by bit.